In recent years the role of communities in tackling poverty has been a major component of Irish social policy with several national programmes funded to address social inclusion. Many of these incorporate and promote community development approaches such as the Community Development Programme itself, the Local Development Social Inclusion Programme and the Family and Community Services Resource Centres’ Programme amongst others. Increasingly, there is an interest and requirement to demonstrate evidence of outcomes related to community development processes. This literature review was commissioned as a first step to identify, at a broad level, evidence of the contribution of community development to tackling poverty. Its terms of reference were:
• Review existing literature relating to community development approaches to tackling poverty in Ireland
• Establish baseline information on documented evidence e.g. evaluations in this area
• Provide an analysis on the nature, extent and quality of the information
• Identify research and documentation gaps in community development approaches to tackling poverty
• Identify potential research questions and make recommendations to Combat Poverty on priority areas for further research and address the gaps identified by the literature review.
The report, undertaken by Motherway Begley, emphasises the need for clarity with regard to the use of the term community development. The importance of retaining a meaningful and solid definition of community development and of defending its core concepts of participation and empowerment and collective action for social change is emphasised. It also recommends that any evaluation system developed to assess the impacts of community development should include both quantitative and qualitative data in a specifically tailored framework.
In its conclusions, the report posits that the potential analysis of existing datasets that operate in a community development context should be explored. This includes the SPEAK data used in the Community Development and Family Resource Centres’ Programmes.
Going forward, research frameworks that address the impacts of community development need to reflect the principles of community development and incorporate the participation of community development practitioners and stakeholders.
Combat Poverty wishes to acknowledge and thank Brian Motherway for his expertise and high standards in bringing the literature review to completion. Thanks is also extended to those who participated in two roundtables to inform the development of the literature review and acted as independent readers.
Reference list: Brian Motherway. 2006. Retrieved from http://www.most.ie/webreports/reportjune2010/Policy07/TheRoleOfCommunityDevelopment-LiteratureReview_2006.pdf